May 23rd, 2011
05:04 PM ET

Preacher now says end of the world will happen in 5 months

By Kim Hutcherson and Dan Gilgoff, CNN

(CNN) - Harold Camping is sticking to his apocalyptic guns.

In his first radio broadcast since his doomsday prediction failed to pan out in a spectacularly public fashion, the California preacher insisted his was an error of interpretation, not fact.

What's more, he has another calculation for the day the world will end - October 21, 2011.

Camping had kept a low-profile since Saturday, the day he had forecast for the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. He and his devoted followers have been warning for months that on May 21, a select 2% to 3% of the world's population would be taken to heaven. Those left behind would face months of tribulation before perishing in the Earth's destruction, which Camping said would happen on October 21.

This is the basis for his new prediction, which Camping claims is not new at all. He told listeners on his Family Radio broadcast Monday that God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction.

But he maintains that the end of the world is still coming.

"We've always said October 21 was the day," Camping said during his show. "The only thing we didn't understand was the spirituality of May 21. We're seeing this as a spiritual thing happening rather than a physical thing happening. The timing, the structure, the proofs, none of that has changed at all."

However, Camping said his group would not be mounting another advertising push. In the months leading up to May 21, Family Radio billboards popped up across the country, warning that the end was near.

"We're not going to be passing out tracts," Camping said. "We're not going to put up any more billboards. We're not going to be advertising in any way. The world has been warned. We did our little share and the media picked it up. But now the world has been told, it's under judgment."

Fred Store, who led one of four RV caravans that toured the country in recent months to spread the word about judgment day, said he and other followers heard Camping's broadcast "and we were quite happy - it will be interesting to see what the next couple of months will bring."

"It appears as though this whole [rapture] thing happened in a spiritual, rather than a physical way," said Store, 66. The retired electrician said that he and the other nine members of his five-RV caravan were still at an RV park where they waited for the rapture to arrive on Saturday.

He said the park was within 100 miles of Boston, Massachusetts, but didn't want to disclose the specific location. He said the caravan was waiting for word from Camping's ministry, Family Radio, about arranging the return of the vehicles to the broadcaster's Oakland, California, headquarters.

Store said he and the others in his caravan were not disappointed that the dramatic events associated with the rapture had not come to pass.

"We think that judgment day did happen," he said. "It didn’t result in an earthquake, and there were a number of things that weren't exactly the way we said they would be, but we were only reading from the Bible.  We’ve been humbled by the whole experience."

Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit Christian radio network with about 65 stations across the country, in 1958. It received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009.

He first inaccurately predicted the world would end in 1994. Despite his poor track record, he has gathered many followers. Some gave up their homes, entire life savings and jobs because they believed the world was ending.

Reporters who were allowed to ask questions during the broadcast Monday pressed Camping on this issue, but he would not admit that he bore any blame for his followers' predicaments.

"I don't have any responsibility," Camping said. "I'm only teaching the Bible. I'm telling ... this is what the Bible says. I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."

Experts in apocalyptic movements said that reinterpretations like Camping's are not uncommon in the wake of failed doomsday predictions.

“Historically, failed prophecies tend to result in disillusionment, with members deserting the group, or, more typically, a faith-saving (and face-saving) statement to the effect that while divine revelation remains infallible, human calculation is not,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, author of the forthcoming book “The Architecture of Apocalypticism” and an associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. 

“In short: The math was off, and it’s back to the drawing board,” he said. “If the logic seems a bit self-serving, recall that in the apocalyptic mindset, faith precedes theory, and theory informs the evidence."

–CNN's Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • End times

soundoff (4,998 Responses)
  1. ScorpionKiller

    What Camping hasn't counted on is that the Witches of the world have united; we have a secret underground movement that's silently thwarting all of his religion's efforts to destroy the Earth. Yup. We're winning... betcha didn't see that one coming, DID ya, Harold? Muwaahahahahahaaaa!!! 😉

    May 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  2. joe

    the bible says the end is near, scientists say the end is near, i don't really care anymore. if there's zombies... i'm staying inside, but please, god, let it happen on a monday.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  3. linda

    Hay Mr. Camping read Matthew 25:13

    May 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  4. Media World Observer

    Media tries to make Christianity's image dumb or destroy it by giving the world false preachers/ cults views

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • SB

      Christianity makes Christianity look stupid. The media is just reporting.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  5. Marcus

    Seriously this guy means well and he seems sincere but he sincerely wrong. The fact that he is making time (day/hour) predicition clearly lets me know that he is completely misquoting and misrepresenting the word. He's got one thing right Jesus is coming soon and the world will come to an end but there is absolutely no way he knows the day and hour.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  6. Paul

    I'd like to see some followup with those poor followers who threw their lives away based on the ranting of a senile old man. Not only a good warning to others, but also some good entertainment!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  7. SmellyOcean

    That guy is a crook, a fake and an utter idiot. People like him need to be locked up in an insane asylum or thrown in jail. Their delusions of grandeur only serve to irritate me.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |

      all religious people or just this guy?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  8. Sean

    If you keep predicting the end of the world once or twice a year, it eventually has to come true right?

    All this man is doing is destroying the "Christian" reputation. How many Christians that don't actually believe, or follow this nutjob are humiliated because of this one lunatic.

    Also, he's not even close to "teaching the bible" when the Bible specifically states that NO man will ever know when the return of Christ will be. Harold Camping should be thrown in jail for being a twice-convicted false prophet and for the assitance of destruction of coutless people's lives that followed him.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • SmellyOcean

      I agree with ya.
      I have never had a high opinion of organized religion, and Camping has only helped to further reinforce my belief that all religious believers/followers are pathetic, and at best, harmful to society.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Rick

      Matthew 24:36

      May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |

      if this guy was the turning point to what destroyed the christian reputation, then you really haven't been paying attention for the last few hundred years. just to name a few that were worse: the crusades, Spanish inquisition, witch trials, child molestation, hindering science, and controlling politics. should i go on or do you get what i am saying.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  9. Vulpes

    And the idiocy keeps rolling ...

    May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  10. CW

    This guy is a false prophet. Those that follow him are probably real good people who want to follow God no matter what but are a bit blind to this guy's teachings. If I were to encounter one of his followers I would ask how they or Camping interprete the Bible verse that states that "not even the angels know the time and place when our Lord will return".

    May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am |

      when will you learn all prophets are false they fall into the same group as psychos, i mean psychics. except psychics don't have imaginary friends in the sky

      May 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  11. Dori

    If he was preaching and reading the bible, he would see that it says "no man knows the day or hour" This is just a get rich scheme and it's pathetic.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  12. hih

    Despite his poor track record... Oh brother. I suppose with a personal worth in the tens of millions he will be helping out his followers..ooops nope.."I don't have any responsibility” oh well ....at least they will have a head start on ridding themselves of worldly things before October.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am |

      he sounds christian right? screw all the people that follow me as long i get my money, sucks to be them... actually he does. if god wanted to help these people he would have right?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:14 am |

    wow i need to create a religion and inspire this type of devotion to me... i mean god... i mean me... i mean god... well does it really matter as long as they do what they are told and give me there money?

    May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am |

      wrong their

      May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  14. REALLY, Really????

    Some idiot says something stupid what he thinks Jesus is telling him and this is one of the reasons you don't believe in God and Jesus. That is pretty weak.
    Hope no one says anything stupid about what your family has said or done or I guess you will hate them to.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  15. our opinion

    it is sad that people believe this one old man and give up everything they own. Is it because people are loosing everything financially and they want to believe he is right, that would be even worse. The lord never wants us to give up, we are to believe in him not an old man who says the world is coming to an end. Alot of people do not believe or have any relationship with the Lord maybe some of those people should rethink their belief system...after all the day will come that we will be judged but as individiuals and how we have lived our lives. We each have a private relationship with him and to what extent that is our choice.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  16. K3Citizen

    This guy has turned away more people seeking God than the devil himself. How dare he keep lying in order to get ratings for his radio show. The Chicken Little mentality needs to stop. Shame on his congregation for spending millions on advertising and shame on them for still following him.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  17. jimnwnj

    This guy would be a joke, a passing smile on a bad day, if it were not for the people who believe what he says. Oh, yes, and provide him with millions of dollars in support. In any event, no one knows the day and time the earth will end, no one, Just to make such a prediction makes one a liar, or mentally unstable, take your choice. He is one or the other. Others believe in him, which makes one wonder about the state of intelligence and the ability to reason in the US. People need to remember that religious leaders are just men, with all of the weaknesses of other men. Popes, Bishops, priests, pastors, reverends, doesn't matter, they are just men. In some cases, not even average men. Just men. This is yet another example of how we need to take what they say with a grain of salt. From Gods mouth to their ears and lips, I think not.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • CW

      @ Jimnwnj,


      The first thing that ALL of us need to do when listening to anyone or anybody for encouragement, advice, or for ANY problem is this...."Does what that person say line up with the Word of God?". If one is unsure BEFORE acting you pray...then make a decision based on what you believe God is lead you to do.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  18. Elle

    OK! So when jesus comes back, he can take the ones up to heaven and ones in hell but lord....LEAVE CAMPING ON EARTH so he can suffer the end of the world because he just need to read the BIBLE and stop making scientific theories and stuff. God has not give us the spirt of fear but THIS CAMPING dude is giving people fear and stupid ideas of ruining their lives.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  19. Jim5k

    I see little difference between what Mr. Camping is preaching and all religions (not just Christianity). To me faith is crazy. It's the opposite of proof. Sorry, but I need proof.

    Mr. Camping says that only 3-4% will make it to heaven. If that's true, then it would have been better off if God didn't create people at all. There is nothing you can do on earth to justify infinite punishment (or reward for that matter). Even if you can torture and kill all 7 billion people, hell is still infinitely worse. That's a greater difference than getting stoned for a parking ticket.

    It doesn't make sense to me that an all knowing and powerful being would think it fair to punish someone for eternity just because they didn't believe in him. Go ahead, play God for a moment. Create beings infinitely less intelligent than you, give them a whole bunch of confusing stories to sort through, don't give them proof, test their faith, then infinitely punish 97% of them. Oh, and require that they worship you too. That's just sick.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • T

      Well said

      May 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • jj

      Unless ...God is a little kid and we are his ant farm.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • our opinion

      The lord is not demanding that you worship him. He just wants to have a relationship with you. It does not matter what religion you are or if you go to church. All of us should live our lives so that when we die we have no real true bad things we have done, that will never happen but instead of hurting people and being selfish and only caring about ourselves and money and things we acquire, it would be nice to help others when we can. The world would be a better place if more people cared about things that matter. Because if we are every judged for those of you who do not believe it would be better to have a few aces in the whole so to speak. Have a good day.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Jumangee32

      You nailed it, the definition of faith is believing without proof. If you need proof its not your thing than

      May 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • SmellyOcean

      You, sir, are awesome.
      The "god" of all major monotheistic religions is a non falsifiable deity. It can neither be proven or disproven on empirical evidence alone. Which ultimately means that religious believers are arguing for an entirely subjective interpretation of their childhood daydreams, or simply, that which does not actually exist.
      Having an imaginary friend is all fine and dandy, and for some it does provide a sense of belonging and strength to continue on through the day.
      But when these people start consciously interfering with the daily lives of others in the name of their imaginary friend(s), attempting to pass legislation that is entirely legalized discrimination without an ounce of logic (gay marriage for example), hurting or even killing those who do not believe as they do, all in the name of their invisible sky deity, then there is a problem. And I'm not going to simply ignore it.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • CW

      @ Jim5K,

      I h-ate to hear that you feel the way you do. I understand that we all as human beings have been a "prove" it first before I believe species. Anyway God won't force you to believe nor will he give you the "proof" that your looking for. In ess.ence God gives all of us "free will" to follow him or not...the "proof" that your looking for can be found in "the cross that Jesus hung on for all our sins". That my friend should be enough....but its your choice. You see you put what I call "faith" in many things...such as the sun always rising...etc....but...you don't know that the sun will always rise during your lifetime but you still put your "faith" in believing it will everyday right? That is all that the Lord wants....a relationship and your "faith" in him...see John 3:16.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • CW

      @ SmellyOcean,

      You sir or madam..whichever have a "logic" problem. You see when you folks that want an "everything goes" society...i.e(ga-y marriage) just to name one...THIS IS WRONG!!!! You can reference God as "sky deity" all you want but the simple fact is one day....if you don't repent and follow him...you will wish you had.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Jim5k

      You're right – I don't know that the sun will rise each morning, but that can be proven each day. What Mr. Camping is trying to do is prove something in the bible – something I can actually wake up and see. So far he's been wrong.

      As for hanging Jesus for our sins, I never did understand that symbolism. How does nailing ones kid to a tree prove (or solve) anything? ...Especially when I wasn't there to witness him rise from the dead? But I'm not even asking that. All I'm asking is that God talk back to me. I think I have enough brain to determine if it's true or not. Doesn't Christianity say God is everywhere? If so, then what's the problem?

      We look back at how silly past civilizations were for worshiping their obviously silly gods, and even go through great effort preparing for an afterlife (i.e. pyramids). And yet most people today still believe in horned devils, winged angels, and holy ghosts. Sheesh.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  20. BB

    If God wanted us to know when he was coming for the rapture, don't you think there would be a big sign somewhere? But, ok, he picks a mathmatically and mentally challenged Harold Camping who has made a living off of selling fear to do his big work for him. So convincing.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Colin

      Do ya think, if god existed at all, there would be some evidence. Something a little more substantial than the death fears of the weak minded.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • SB

      There was a big sign. Several of them in fact. Didn't you see the billboards?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Jen

      Even in science you cannot prove anything to be absolutely true. Things can only be proven false, so if people want to believe in something bigger than this world, let them.

      As long as they aren't out there like this wack job or hurting others in the name of their god there is no harm. I have never fully decided what I believe in. There are somethings with religion I just cannot wrap my head around but there are so many others that I do trust in... just like with science... there are things that I understand to be true and things I know are wrong.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:22 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.